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Disney to Begin Employee Furloughs on April 19

The Walt Disney Co., one of the media companies hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, will begin furloughing non-essential workers on April 19.

Disney did not say which divisions the layoffs will include. The company has about 223,000 employees worldwide, according to its latest annual report. Of those, about 177,000 work in its Disney Stores and theme parks which have been shut down for weeks as the coronavirus pandemic has banned large gatherings. Disney parks in Asia have been closed since February and parks in the U.S. have been shut down since March.

Disney shares were down about 3% ($3.16 per share) to $93.81 each in afternoon trading April 3.

In addition, Disney has had to suspend production of several TV shows and movies during the pandemic.

“Disney employees have received full pay and benefits during this time, and we’ve committed to paying them through April 18, for a total of five additional weeks of compensation,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “However, with no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses, we’re forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time.”

The furloughed workers will continue to receive health benefits and Disney said those that have unused vacation time can use that during the furlough period. Once furloughed, workers also would be eligible to receive an extra $600 per week in federal compensation as part of the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment benefits.

Here’s the full statement from Disney:

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on our world with untold suffering and loss, and has required all of us to make sacrifices. Over the last few weeks, mandatory decrees from government officials have shut down a majority of our businesses. Disney employees have received full pay and benefits during this time, and we’ve committed to paying them through April 18, for a total of five additional weeks of compensation. 

However, with no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses, we’re forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time. The furlough process will begin on April 19, and all impacted workers will remain Disney employees through the duration of the furlough period. 

They will receive full healthcare benefits,plusthe cost of employee and company premiumswill be paid by Disney, and those enrolled in Disney Aspire will have continued access to the education program.Additionally,employees with available paid time off can elect to use some or all of it at the start of the furlough period and, once furloughed, they are eligible to receive an extra $600 per week in federal compensation through the$2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment insurance.